"I guess we have a few more days of this."
Leila looked at her traveling companion, but he didn't respond. Not that she expected him to, not after the silent treatment of the last day and a half. "You can ride tomorrow, you know," she told him, her eyes on the oversized hat he wore. "It's not like I can't walk."
A brief nod met her declaration, and she sighed. At least he was acknowledging she existed again.
The Hunter turned her eyes to the path in front of them. The high, rock walls of the mountain passes had given way to the Northern Reaches, a nearly unbroken stretch of forest that grew from East Harbor to the Bridges of Mardon; a thousand miles of tall trees and underbrush, most of it still uncharted, the vast majority untamed.
Aqua eyes turned upwards. The sun had disappeared, but the Northern Road, or what remained of it, was a wide swath cut through the trees. The sun shone down on the rough, broken pavement most of the day before disappearing beneath them. A sun that grew steadily hotter as they moved south.
"We could start traveling at night," she suggested. "It would be easier on you, wouldn't it?" And she wouldn't feel nearly as guilty about riding if he didn't have to walk while the sun was out.
"We'll travel during the day," was the flat, almost monotone reply.
The blond continued her scrutiny of him as they traveled on. She couldn't understand why the dhampir was acting this way. She thought they'd forged a friendship of sorts on the journey back to civilization. They even started having conversations that were more than two or three words. All that changed yesterday.
That's when D stopped riding behind her, settling for keeping a brisk pace next to the mecha-horse. Their short, even amusing conversations came to a dead halt. The hunter started them traveling as soon as the sun was up, and seldom halted before dusk. Not that she was complaining. With the hard pace he was setting, they were making good time back to civilization.
She just wished she knew the reason.
The mecha-horse stopped. "We'll camp here."
Leila jumped down. She already knew that protesting was stupid. D would just stare at her with those gray eyes until she gave in and did whatever he wanted.
"You have rations to last two days, three if you limit yourself." The dampire took the mecha-horses reins. "We should reach the first frontier town in less than a week."
"I can hunt if I need to." Leila shook out her bedroll. "What are you going to eat?"
The dhampir didn't answer.
Leila decided to ignore him as she went through her saddlebags. The wound on her chest was itching terribly, a good itch. It was healing; the pink of new flesh showing between the neat row of stitches. Soon, they'd have to be removed, and if they didn't reach a town by then she'd have to ask the other hunter.
D, she said to herself as she pulled out the vials of medicine. What kind of name is just 'D' for a person, even a half-breed? She was sure it stood for something. Nobles were a stuck-up lot, tied up in titles and honors they had no right to. He had to have been brought up among them; she couldn't imagine a woman raising a half-breed among humans. The child would have been killed the minute its nature was known.
Then again, Leila couldn't imagine a vampire killing its own kind, either.
Half vampire, she corrected. Maybe by denying his name, D thought to deny all in him that wasn't human; another way to remove him from who and what he was. She'd done much the same after her mother's death. Shara, the scared little girl with no family, had died the day her mother was stoned.
Still, he could have at least chosen all of a name.
"This isn't helping, you know."
D tried to ignore the parasite as he tied his horse down for the night.
"You're just torturing yourself. You should have left her to make her own way. Then we wouldn't be in this mess."
The dhampir tightened his hand on the horse's brindle, the hard leather biting into his palm. "I said quiet."
If only he could have left her. The Marcus Brother's tank was demolished, the small bike she used nothing but twisted metal. He couldn't leave the woman alone in hostile territory. Their path lead them Southwest, into the Frontier and then the Inner Territories. Without a mecha-horse it would take her weeks to reach Bosdale, the nearest village of any size that had regular conveyances to the inland cities. That is, if she survived the animals no doubt ranging through the mountains. And the Barbaroi. And any other number of mutants or men who would see a woman alone as easy prey.
"You know, you're not nearly as bad as you like to pretend."
The dhampir's grip on the brindle tightened even more, and he held it for a few seconds to get his point across: he didn't want to hear any more on the subject. When he released his hand there was blissful silence, then, "How long do you think you can hold out?"
He ignored the snort that answered.
D glanced at the woman under discussion. Leila was already sorting through the supplies she scavenged from the Marcus brother's vehicle. The small clearing was perhaps a hundred yards away from the road, a bare patch of grass covered earth surrounded by towering trees no more than ten feet across. Her scent wafted on the air, and D turned away, cursing as he felt his canines begin to elongate.
"'Long enough' eh?" His hand chuckled. "You can't even get within two feet of her without damn near losing control. There's five days left of this, you know."
The rummaging stopped, and there was the smell of ozone as the portable heater was turned on. "I know."
"You could always-"
The symbiote continued to grumble, but D ignored him. There was the sound of rippling cloth, the smell of dried blood and medicine. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Leila changing the dressing on her wound, dropping the soiled bandages into a small pot already filled with water set in the cooking aperture. The device was of her own design; larger than most portable heater combo units, more agile for cooking for more than one person. As she moved, her still open top revealed the inner slopes of her breasts.
D stood up and walked out of the circle of light made by the blue flame. Leila didn't comment on his leaving, she never did. Just as she never questioned the strange voice she sometimes heard when his parasite grew too loud. It was just as well. He wouldn't have told her what he was doing in the trees anyway.
The dhampir made a sound dangerously close to a sigh as darkness closed around him. Five days. Five days of wanting, of needing, of fighting his own instincts. He doubted if she even knew what she was doing to him, and if she did, he was grateful to her for not mentioning it. Her body was ripe, ready to be taken, and the scent of her was threatening the iron control he kept himself under. He hadn't been this tempted in…
His thoughts flitted to another time, another place. An image of Doris, wet and naked from her bath, offering herself to him, flashed and then was gone.
"Cant' get away from blonds, can you D?" The symbiote teased in his gravely voice. "Most men wouldn't run in the opposite direction when there was a willing woman just waiting for you to-"
D used his left hand to grip the hilt of his dagger, effectively smothering the voice driving him insane. If the benefits didn't outweigh the problems, he would have long since cut off the hand and given himself some peace. After a moment the muttering faded, and he relaxed his hold. Satisfied that he would have silence at least for a small while, the hunter turned sharply to the right, following the smell of running water.
The river was small, barely larger than a creek, but the water was like ice. The dhampir filled his canteens before removing his hat and dunking his head, the cold water soothing on his overheated skin. A strange feeling, that. His skin was normally cool to the touch, not the death-like cold of a true vampire, but the lack of heat was noticeable. Now it seemed he burned in preparation for an act he had no intention of committing
His symbiote was right. He could take Leila and she would put up only a token resistance. He'd known that from the moment they first saw each other. His senses had sought out the most susceptible member of the Marcus Brothers immediately, her large jewel-toned eyes dilated with arousal just seconds after seeing him.
The hunter cursed silently. Even when he tried not to, he still ended up thinking about her.
Leila heard the dhampir leave, but didn't look up from her pot of bandages. He would be gone for an hour or more before coming back and lying down without a word. More than once she thought about following him, but knew it would do no good. She had faith in her tracking skills, but didn't think they stretched that far. He had better hearing, and if he didn't hear her approach, she was sure he could smell her.
I need a bath, she thought to herself, pulling her top closed. The brush of cool air against her skin was wonderful after the heat of the day. The skin-tight material gave adequate protection against everything but a direct attack, and it also trapped sweat. And grime. She'd taken only the bare essentials when she raided the caravan, and that didn't include the bulky skirt and shirt that were her only other clothes. Probably why he disappears every night. I must smell terrible.
The hunter pulled out her goggles and accessed her maps. The Braman River broke into several smaller tributaries just north of where they were, and at least one substantial one went through this area, not three hundred yards away. She might not have a change of clothes, but she could at least wash out the worst of the sweat from what she was wearing. Cold water would feel good after the hot day, the heat of which lingered into the night.
Leila checked the map again. The river was the same direction D went in. Well, she could walk a few yards upstream, and hopefully he wouldn't notice her.
It never occurred to her that she might notice him.
D counted the glassy red pills before dropping two into his goblet. Deep, crimson color bubbled up from the bottom as the pills dissolved. His supply was running low since he began doubling the dosage to counteract his hunger. The combination of dried blood, proteins, and vitamins was a bland substitute for fresh blood, but it provided sustenance without the need for a victim. It was also more nourishing than the blood of animals, most of which had fled the area when they felt his presence.
"You won't last another two days at this rate, if you're so worried about other people running out of supplies."
D dropped the rest of the pills into their pouch. "I've gone without before."
"Sure," the symbiote conceded. "When you were alone. Traveling only at night."
The sound the dhampir made in the back of his throat bordered on aggravation. "Why are you telling me this?"
"Honestly?" the hand bulged outward, forming the shape of a lined face. "I'm a hand, this is the most entertainment I get when we're not hunting down vampires." The creature let out a chuckle. "Besides, I love watching you tear yourself up fighting your 'baser' instincts. Face it, D, you love torturing yourself."
The half-breed was silent for long moments as he drank. A shiver went through him as his body processed the liquid. Almost immediately the sounds of the forest were louder, sharper. The night was brighter, the smells more pronounced.
"What, don't tell me I struck a nerve."
"Not at all." The dhampir began removing his clothes. He'd just remembered something about his symbiote. Something that would ensure he had silence.
"Hey, what're ya doing?" He could feel the creature stirring, the creased face bulging out from his hand and turning as much as it was able towards the creek. "You're not actually thinking about going in there?"
D didn't answer.
"There are creatures that wait in places like this, you know." The symbiote sounded almost frantic. "Not to mention that your powers are reduced. You know, the whole running water thing?" When its host began to wade into the chill water, the symbiote made a face before melting back into the palm.
Cold, cold, cold.
The vampire hunter singsonged the words in her head as she stepped into the stream. It was a lot colder than it looked. Hell, there should be ice on the surface of the stuff. "The next town, I'm taking a bath," she promised herself as the water lapped at her knees. A long, hot bath in a real tub. Not the cat baths she was forced to take while sharing quarters with four men.
She another step, a rock underfoot turned, and Leila found herself submerged to her chest, the cold stealing her voice so all that emerged were choked gasps. I'm gonna freeze my tits off! As fast as she could the woman climbed out of the stream and began scrubbing herself down with a piece of rough cotton. The soap was handmade; a brown, slimy stuff that burned if left on too long; the last of the supplies they brought before taking the job. The night air was blissfully warm after her dunking, and she waited as long as possible before wading back into the current.
"Clean again," she said out loud as she wrapped herself in a blanket. All that was left now was to rinse out her jumpsuit, which she did as swiftly as possible. By the time she was done her hands were cramped from the cold, but her clothes didn't smell like a neglected barn, either
She wondered what D was doing. Half-breeds were rare, so she didn't study them as assiduously as she did the Nobles. Half of her wondered if the hunter was going after prey. He certainly didn't eat the simple stew she made when they stopped. He barely drank any water.
Half-breed vampires are different, she remembered Borgoth telling her, but he knew about as much as the average person when it came to them. Mostly, they just treated them like vampires who could walk in sunlight. Just avoid them if you can.
Easier said than done, now that she found herself traveling with one. He was beyond handsome. Beautiful, that's what he was. An image of D came to mind from when she buried him. He was solid muscle under that armor, but as light as someone half his size. She recalled the silk of his hair against her, the strange, spicy scent that seemed to waft from him…
The memory sent a spike of arousal through her, and Leila sighed. Great, now she needed another dunking, just to cool her down. She eyed the swiftly moving current. On second thought, maybe not. The blond hunter slid on her boots and walked back to camp, her still damp-clothes slung over one arm. If she had to wait for her clothes to dry, she could at least do it by the fire.
She took less than ten steps when a sound caught her attention. Splashing. Fish! Fresh fish after days of dried rations would be heaven, and it would spare her rations for the night. She checked her gun, belted awkwardly under the blanket, just in case. More than one kind of mutant made its home in lakes and rivers. Then again, depending on what kind of mutant it was, she just might kill it anyway. It meant getting close enough to it to use her knife so her kill wouldn't be swept downstream, but if it was small enough she'd risk getting close. They could spare a day to smoke any leftovers.
Quietly, the blond crept upriver, her suit folded into a tight bundle. She pulled her knife, and crept to the edge of the tree line. The water here moved slower, the creek stretching out to form a pool several feet across. Something made a large wave against the opposite bank. Pale flesh breached the water for a moment, and slid back beneath the surface. The pool was still for several moments, and then the creature burst out of the water.
D was standing in the middle of the pool, facing upstream. The water barely came to his waist, revealing the body his armor hinted at. The moonlight gleamed off the hard, chiseled muscles of his chest, abdomen, and arms. Wet hair clung to his skin like a dark veil, glistening to his waist. It was so long that the last few inches swirled in the gentle current. She had seen vampires by night before, their bloodless skin pasty, but D glowed in the scant light.
Something wafted on the air, a sweet, spicy scent, and Leila inhaled deeply. The scent filled her lungs, burrowed under her skin with a gentle tingling that traveled along her arms and legs raising goose flesh. At once the tingle rushed into her center, filling her with heat, with need. She was vaguely aware that her knife slipped from her hand and landed in the soft earth at her feet. Information battered at the edges of her haze, but she pushed it away. The only thing that mattered was the euphoria, the elation, which coursed through her.
She was lost.
Hi all! This was written in response to the depressing lack of D/Leila fics out there.Thank you for reading! More chapter to come in two days :)